Michele Clark High School senior Tanaya Butler may not have lived to see prom. On April 24, 2016, Butler was one of 43 people shot over a weekend that included six fatalities, according to an NBC 5 Chicago report.
The West Side teenager said the bullets struck her spine and left arm, causing nerve damage to the left side of her body. She was left partially paralyzed and temporarily blind.
“It was a scary time for me because I didn’t know if I would walk again, I didn’t know if I would be able to do the things I used to do when I was walking,” said Butler.
She had to learn basic skills all over again. The first time since her shooting that she walked more than 300 feet was considered a milestone. She reached higher plateaus, like regaining the ability to dance — one of her life’s passions.
One night last week, Butler braced herself for yet another achievement since tragedy struck last April.
“I think my family and friends were more excited than I was,” Butler said, referencing the moments leading up to her June 9 prom night.
During the anxious process of finding the right dress and crafting the perfect hairstyle, the thought of walking was among her foremost concerns. How many steps would she need to take? How laborious would putting one foot in front of another become?
Butler stepped slowly out of her West Side apartment complex and into the night air with the assistance of a walker. Family and friends snapped cellphone pictures of the glammed up, battle-tested teenager.
In the weeks and months after getting shot, Butler not only had to focus on her physical recovery; she also had to make sure that her academics were up to par in order to graduate.
Butler said she had the support of high school staff members, who helped her complete remaining credits and prepare for the ACT test. She attended classes for half the school day on an adjusted schedule, which she said was instrumental to her academic success.
Earlier this year, she received an acceptance letter from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she plans on majoring in chemistry. She wants to be a cosmetic chemist one day.
“Never give up,” Butler said. “Even if life turns bad on you, keep your head up because you deserve happiness. With everything that comes your way, just keep pushing forward.”